Duterte praises Trump reaction to his decision on ending pact

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Mr Donald Trump deserves to be re-elected after the US President said he did not mind Mr Duterte ending the military agreement with the US. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Mr Donald Trump deserves to be re-elected after the US President said he did not mind Mr Duterte ending the military agreement with the US. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday that Mr Donald Trump deserved to be re-elected, praising the US President's reaction to his decision to end a decades-old military agreement with the United States.

Mr Trump said on Wednesday he did not mind Mr Duterte's decision to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) even as US Defence Secretary Mark Esper called the move "unfortunate", as Washington and its allies press China to abide by "international rules" in Asia.

"It is President Trump's circumspect and judicious reaction to the termination of the VFA that made President Duterte give the following remarks: 'President Trump is a good president and he deserves to be re-elected'," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

The VFA is important to the overall US-Philippines alliance and sets out rules for US soldiers operating in the Philippines, a former US territory.

Washington has described the relationship between the two countries as "iron-clad", despite Mr Duterte's complaints that include allegations of US hypocrisy and ill-treatment.

Mr Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring US military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to US defence.

Mr Trump has said the US helped the Philippines defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.

In his comments about the VFA on Wednesday, Mr Trump added that he had "a very good" relationship with Mr Duterte.

Mr Duterte's decision, said to have been sparked by the revocation of a US visa held by a former police chief who led his bloody war on drugs, could complicate US military interests in the Asia-Pacific region as China's ambitions rise.

 

The firebrand leader, who favours closer ties with China and Russia, has said it is time for the Philippines to be militarily independent.

Some Philippine lawmakers hope the VFA can be saved in the 180 days before the termination takes effect, expressing concern that without it, two other US military agreements will become useless.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 16, 2020, with the headline 'Duterte praises Trump reaction to his decision on ending pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe